Pittsburgh’s top trio of Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis has been together for the majority of the playoffs and has totaled 34 points.
Bruins coach Claude Julien tweaked his second line late in the first round against the Maple Leafs and inserted veteran Jaromir Jagr on the wing alongside center Patrice Bergeron and winger Brad Marchand. This threesome played well during the Rangers series and it appears Jagr, who has yet to score in the postseason, is feeling comfortable with his linemates and is on the verge of an offensive breakthrough. He’s created quality chances in the last few games and facing his former team at this stage should help motivate him.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma counters with a pretty lethal second line of James Neal, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla. Malkin has four goals and 12 assists for 16 points in 11 playoff games. Iginla has four goals and eight assists, while Neal has six goals and four assists.
“You’d have to hope that our team responds the same way,” Julien said when asked about the Penguins’ top two lines. “We’ve got two lines that we feel are pretty good as well. Maybe we don’t have the names that the Penguins have when it comes to the Crosbys, the Malkins, but we have guys that have done a great job in the past, that have worked well together, that have given us an opportunity to be a championship team. Depth is certainly going to be challenged with another team that has just as much. We talked about how useful it was in the first couple of rounds. Well, it’s going to be a challenge here in this one against Pittsburgh.”
Looking beyond those top two lines on the Bruins and Penguins is where things get interesting.
Boston’s third line of Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin have struggled offensively, while Pittsburgh’s Tyler Kennedy, Brandon Sutter and Matt Cooke have produced. The Penguins’ Brenden Morrow has logged minutes on both the third and fourth lines in the playoffs and has two goals and two assists.
There’s no denying the contributions from the Bruins’ energy line. Julien does not refer to Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton as a fourth line because this trio adds so much to the mix. They’ve combined for 15 points in 12 games, including two game-winning goals.
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“It makes a coach look good, there’s no doubt about that,” Julien said of the energy line after Game 5 against the Rangers. “We’re known as a team that rolls four lines. I’m not a coach that rolls four lines because I want to roll four lines, I roll four lines because I know I’ve got the depth to roll four lines. If I was coaching a team that didn’t have four lines, than I would no doubt shorten my bench.
“[GM] Peter [Chiarelli] and our organization has allowed us to have the players that gives us the opportunity to go with four lines. They were rewarding us with big goals. There’s no doubt, that line played a big role in this series. We’re moving on and they certainly deserve a lot of credit for that.”
Production throughout the lineup has given the Bruins a collective, relentless surge. A solid forecheck, good puck possession and sustained pressure have all been key components for Boston in the playoffs. When the Bruins play their style, they’re physical, dictating the pace and creating scoring opportunities by crashing the net and creating havoc in the crease.
“We just got to play a strong team game and play to our strengths,” Lucic said. “We’re a team that plays in-your-face type of hockey and I think what worked for us [against New York] was we were able to establish our forecheck and we got to keep doing that. [The Penguins are] a team that you don’t want to turn the puck over against because they have more than enough weapons to make you pay for it. So, puck management is going to be huge for us.”
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